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Posts tagged ‘Literary Awards’

Clade shortlisted for the 2016 WA Premier’s Book Awards

800px-Milky_Way_Night_Sky_Black_Rock_Desert_NevadaI’m thrilled to be able to announce that Clade has been shortlisted for the 2016 Western Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction, alongside books by Miles Allinson, Elizabeth Harrower, Gail Jones, John Kinsella, Joan London, Susan Midalia and Tracy Ryan. The winner is announced on 3 October, but in the meantime the shortlists for all categories are available via the State Library of Western Australia. And on a more personal note I want to say how delighted I am to find myself sharing space on a shortlist with Joan London, a writer I admire enormously. My thanks to the judges and the organisers, and congratulations to all my fellow shortlistees.


Clade shortlisted for the 2016 ALS Gold Medal

CladeI’m delighted to be able to announce that Clade has been nominated for Australia’s oldest literary award, the ALS Gold Medal, which is both completely unexpected and a huge honour. My congratulations to the other shortlisted writers, Tegan Bennett Daylight, Drusilla Modjeska and Brenda Niall – it’s fantastic to be in such distinguished company – and my heartfelt thanks to the judges and the organisers of the prize, the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. The winner is announced on 6 July at the Association’s conference in Canberra.

Clade shortlisted for the Christina Stead Award

I’m delighted to be able to say that Clade has been shortlisted for the Christina Stead Award for Fiction at the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards: it’s a huge honour and I’m absolutely thrilled. The other nominees for the fiction award are Tony Birch’s Ghost River, Merlinda Bobis’ Locust Girl, Lisa Gorton’s The Life of HousesGail Jones’ A Guide to Berlin and Mireille Juchau’s The World Without Us, several of which I’ve read and loved, but I do recommend taking a few minutes to check out the shortlists for the other awards as well. The winner will be announced in Sydney on 16 May; in the meantime I note without comment that voting is now open for the People’s Choice Award, and that Clade is one of the eligible titles.

‘Visitors’ shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards

Pitcher PlantI woke up this morning to the very lovely news that my story, ‘Visitors’, which was published in the Review of Australian Fiction in the middle of last year, has been shortlisted for an Aurealis Award in the Short Fiction Category alongside stories by Margo Lanagan, Greg Mellor and Kaaron Warren.

Obviously being on the shortlist is pretty fabulous in itself, but I’m doubly pleased because it feels like a real vote of confidence in the time and effort the Review’s editor, Matthew Lamb, has invested in the publication. Matthew’s now editing Island (a process he spoke about recently) but in his time at the Review he helped create a space in which both new and established writers could stretch themselves and try new things, a process that’s paid off in spades over the past couple of years.

You can read the full list of finalists over on the Aurealis Awards website, and if you’d like to read the story itself it’s available for $2.99 through the Review of Australian Fiction (or you can get the whole of Volume 2 for $9.99). My congratulations again to all my fellow finalists (and in particular Margo Lanagan, whose novel, Sea Hearts, was also shortlisted for the Stella Prize earlier this week) and my thanks to the judges and organisers for all their hard work.

Oh, and the picture of the pitcher plant? If you read the story you’ll understand.

Literary Consolation Prizes

In the words of the immortal Homer J. Simpson, “it’s funny because it’s true”.


For more (or to order a poster) check out Grant Snider’s wonderful Incidental Comics.

The Voyagers wins FAW Christina Stead Award

Mardi McConnochie, The VoyagersI’m thrilled to announce my partner Mardi McConnochie’s most recent novel, The Voyagers, has won the FAW Christina Stead Award for Best Novel. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s a fantastic book and it totally deserves it. If you’d like to know more about it you can read Angela Meyer’s interview with Mardi or read the first chapter for free, otherwise you can find prices for print copies on Booko (or you can grab it for 20% off via Booktopia), or buy it in digital format from the Kindle, Kobo and iBook stores.

And while you’re there you might want to check out Mardi’s blog, which is a bit occasional (though no more so than this one has been lately) but very worth a look.

2011 Man Booker Prize Longlist Announced

Alan Hollinghurst

The big news overnight is the announcement of the longlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize. As usual it’s a mixed bag, with books by heavy-hitters such as Alan Hollinghurst rubbing shoulders with books by relative unknowns such as Esi Edugyan, but this year it’s also heavy on Canadians (Alison Pick, Patrick deWitt, Esi Edugyan) and debut novels (Stephen Kelman, A.D. Miller, Yvette Edwards and Patrick McGuiness). There are no Australians on the list.

I’ve only read a handful of the books on the list, so I’m not going to offer any organised views about it beyond saying that while it looks like an interesting and reasonably diverse selection of books, the proof, as always, will be in what kind of shortlist it shakes out into.

Of the books I have read, I’m pleased to see Sebastian Barry’s On Canaan’s Side has made the cut: I’m reviewing it for The Australian so I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say that while I’m not sure it’s quite as good as his extraordinary 2005 novel, A Long Long Way (if you haven’t read it do so, now) it’s a very fine novel. Likewise I’ve read part but not all of the Hollinghurst and while again I’m not convinced it has the urgency and unity of The Line of Beauty, it’s also very, very good. That said I reviewed Carol Birch’s Jamrach’s Menagerie, which is based on the wreck of the Whaleship Essex and was also longlisted for the Orange Prize, and while I like it, I’m a little surprised to see it turning up here, though that’s less because I don’t rate it as a book than because its brand of highly coloured, almost ecstatic historical fiction (think Golding rather than Mantel) seems a little at odds with the tone of the list as a whole.

Of the things I haven’t read I’ve heard uniformly terrific things about Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, and I’m interested to see Jane Rogers, a writer who has been more than a little neglected in recent years make the list with what sounds like a piece of dystopian science fiction.

As always the other question is what’s not been included. The books the media have noticed are missing are Graham Swift’s Wish You Were Here and Anne Enright’s The Forgotten Waltz. Of the two I’m unsurprised by the omission of the Swift, which I’ve reviewed for The Age, and while again I don’t want to preempt the review I will say is really quite bad. I’m more surprised about the Enright: while it’s not as striking or as urgent as either her short fiction or her 2007 Booker-winner, The Gathering, it’s a quite dazzling book at a textual and technical level, demonstrating not just great psychological and social acuity, but the marvellous combination of steeliness and orality that so distinguishes Enright’s prose. I’m also slightly surprised by the omission of Malcolm Knox’s The Life, which I assume was eligible for the prize, and should, all things being equal, have been in contention.

The other big omission is China Miéville’s Embassytown, which had been widely tipped to bring Miéville the mainstream recognition he so plainly deserves. I don’t want to revisit the genre vs literary argument here, but to my mind the failure to even longlist a novel as rich and prismatic as Embassytown says something about the narrowness of our literary culture.

I’m sure others can think of other SF and Fantasy books that perhaps should have been included, but I’d like to mention one in particular, which is Jo Walton’s Among Others. I have no idea whether it was even submitted, but if it wasn’t that seems a pity, since it’s both a wonderful novel and a book I suspect is likely to appeal to literary readers as much as it does to a segment of the SF and Fantasy readership. I’m planning to write something about it soon, so I won’t go on about it too much here, except to say I enjoyed it immensely, and it’s very definitely a book that deserves a wider readership.

Anyway, enough about me. You can read more about the list at The Guardian and The Independent (or anywhere, really), read the official announcement for more information about the prize and the judges, or find links to samples from the longlisted books on Galleycat. The shortlist is announced on Tuesday 6 September and the winner on Tuesday 18 October. The full longlist is below.

Update: Two more books I’m surprised aren’t on the list. The conclusion to Edward St Aubyn’s Melrose Trilogy, At Last, and my agent David Miller’s wonderful short novel about the death of Conrad, Today. I’m sure more will occur to me as the day goes on …

Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending
Sebastian Barry – On Canaan’s Side
Carol Birch – Jamrach’s Menagerie
Patrick deWitt – The Sisters Brothers
Esi Edugyan – Half Blood Blues
Yvvette Edwards – A Cupboard Full of Coats
Alan Hollinghurst – The Stranger’s Child
Stephen Kelman – Pigeon English
Patrick McGuinness – The Last Hundred Days
A.D. Miller – Snowdrops
Alison Pick – Far to Go
Jane Rogers – The Testament of Jessie Lamb
D.J. Taylor – Derby Day

Prime Minister’s Literary Awards Shortlists Announced

Heartfelt congratulations to my friend, Delia Falconer, whose very personal tribute to her home town, Sydney, has been shortlisted for the Non-Fiction Category of the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, along with Paul Kelly’s How to Make Gravy and Richard McGregor’s excellent study of the Chinese Communist leadership, The Party and books by Rod Moss and Patrick Wilcken.

I meant to write something about Delia’s book when it came out, and while that got away from me, I think it’s a terrific book: startlingly intelligent, idiosyncratic and written with a very striking blend of steel and fluidity. If you haven’t read it I very much recommend you do.

Congratulations also to the other shortlisted writers. I’ve only had a few moments to look at them, but at first glance I’d say two things. The first is that the Fiction shortlist is overtly and unashamedly literary. And the second is that these shortlists are likely to add fuel to the arguments about the under-representation of women writers that were triggered by last month’s announcement of the second all-male Miles Franklin shortlist in a row. I don’t want to suggest Young Adult Fiction isn’t serious writing, but I think it’s difficult not to be struck by the fact that the two shortlists that would usually be regarded as the more overtly intellectual and literary – Fiction and Non-Fiction – each contain four books by men and one by a woman, while the less overtly literary category of Young Adult Fiction contains five books by women and none by men (the Children’s category is rather more evenly split).

But all that said, my congratulations to all the shortlisted authors, and especially to Delia. I wish you could all win, but I guess it doesn’t work that way.

Delia Falconer, Sydney
Paul Kelly, How to Make Gravy
Richard McGregor, The Party
Rod Moss, The Hard Light of Day
Patrick Wilcken, Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory

Fiction shortlist
Stephen Daisley, Traitor
Roberta Lowing, Notorious
Roger McDonald, When Colts Ran
David Musgrave, Glissando
Kim Scott, That Deadman Dance

Young Adult Fiction Shortlist
Laura Buzo, Good Oil
Cath Crowley, Graffiti Moon
Cassandra Gold, The Three Loves of Persimmon
Joanne Horniman, About a Girl
Melina Marchetta, The Piper’s Son 

Children’s Fiction
Bronwyn Bancroft, Why I Love Australia
Lucy Christopher, Flyaway
Morris Gleitzman, Now
Bob Graham, April Underhill, Tooth Fairy
Boori Monty Prior and Jan Ormerod, Shake a Leg

Peter Temple wins Miles Franklin Award

Some of you may have caught up with last night’s announcement that Peter Temple has won the 2010 Miles Franklin Award for his novel, Truth.

I want to post something about the award and its profile later this week, but for now I think it’s worth saying I think it’s an interesting decision. There’s no doubt Temple’s a truly gifted writer, and while I suspect his last novel, The Broken Shore, is probably marginally better, Truth is a very impressive piece of work (to my mind the unrelenting darkness is a bit overwhelming, and the highly stylized language actually gets in the way of Temple’s real strength, which is his uncanny ear not just for the Australian vernacular, but for the darkness below the surface of Australian society).

But simultaneously, Truth is, at its heart, a piece of genre fiction. Now before you all leap down my throat, let me point out that I don’t mean that as criticism, and neither am I suggesting that there’s a hierarchy at the pinnacle of which sits the literary novel. What I am saying is that it’s possible to recognise and define forms of writing that operate within particular conventions, and which are, to a greater or lesser extent, judged by their success within those conventions. Crime fiction is one such genre, as is SF. I’m generally resistant to the notion that literary fiction constitutes another but I recognise many people believe it does. These genres aren’t better or worse than literary fiction, nor are they absolute (in fact they’re actually highly fluid). Nor, despite the tendency to dismiss them as such, are they mere marketing devices. What they are is a kind of critical shorthand, a system that provides ways of understanding and appraising the success or otherwise of different kinds of novels.

Understood like this, I hope no-one will take it askance if I say that whatever else it is, Truth is basically a crime novel, and therefore a piece of genre fiction. That’s not to say it’s not an extremely good crime novel, but it’s still a crime novel, and operates within the conventions and constraints of the genre. And that, in turn, makes it an unusual choice for an award like the Miles Franklin, which has traditionally been reserved for literary fiction.

I suspect the decision is actually a good one, since it goes some way towards breaking down the apartheid between genre and literary fiction, but I also think it’s one that may turn out to be more problematic than the judges realise. That’s partly because it demands they begin making quite difficult choices between different sets of criteria. After all, the quality of a piece of genre fiction is at least partly a function of its success at fulfilling the expectations that define the genre, but is a book that meets those expectations as “good” as a literary novel that meets the expectations we place upon literary fiction by successfully taking risks with language and structure, or challenging the expectations of its readers in interesting ways?[1]

My point isn’t that one’s more significant, or more important than the other, simply that they’re very different sorts of questions, and balancing them is likely to present real challenges. After all, it’s not snobbery that’s seen the development of awards designed specifically for crime novels, but a recognition that crime fiction is a recognisable form, and deserves to be celebrated on its own terms.

But more deeply, opening the door to crime fiction also raises the question of why the judges haven’t opened the door to other genres. Does this decision mean they’ll be reading Greg Egan’s new novel, Zendegi, for next year’s award (assuming, of course, it features an Australian character)? Or Margo Lanagan’s new one (assuming the same thing)? Because surely if they’re prepared to admit crime novels they should be admitting SF and Fantasy? Or indeed Horror, and Romance.

One answer might be that Truth is just a really good novel, and stands comparison with the literary fiction that also made the shortlist. Certainly the judges are at pains to emphasise they think it possesses “all the ambiguity and moral sophistication of the most memorable literature”. And while I think that’s true, it might just as easily be read as an admission the judges are a little uneasy about the basis of their decision. And, more problematically, isn’t this assertion a way of tacitly suggesting “genre” sits somewhere lower on the hierarchy of quality than “literary” fiction, because what you’re really saying is that Truth isn’t just a crime novel (with the emphasis very much upon the “just”)?[2]

As I said above, my point here isn’t to detract from Temple’s win, or to suggest Truth isn’t a worthy winner. But I do think it’s worth registering that it’s a decision that throws up some difficult questions the judges will need to work through in years to come, and one that emphasises the way our criteria for literary quality, and the categories they give shape to, are changing. Is that a good thing? Probably. But it’s definitely a thing, and one that deserves to be recognised, and not hidden away behind shifty notions about Truth being more than “just” a crime novel.

Update: I’ve just noticed that in the time it’s taken me to write this post, Culture Mulcher’s whipped up something on exactly the same point. It’s the quick and the dead, obviously.

1 Just for the record I think Truth fulfils both these criteria.
2 More deeply, you’re also denying the fact that unlike the novels of a writer such as Richard Price, which really do exceed the genre we tacitly group them within, much of Truth’s power derives from its success as a crime novel, so to pretend its generic elements are irrelevant is to place a good part of what makes it a success beyond scrutiny.

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James Wood on literary awards

the_man_booker_prizeTo mark the 40th year of the Booker Prize (now the Man Booker Prize) The Guardian has tracked down one judge from each of the 40 judging committees and asked them about their recollections about the process. It’s worth reading the whole article, but James Wood’s comments about the absurdity of the process and the increasingly invasive and distorting role prizes play in the literary economy deserve to be quoted in full:

“After serving on the 1994 Booker prize committee, I made a pledge never to judge a big fiction prize again, and I have so far honoured it. We were a congenial group, and our chairman was not a former politician or bureaucrat but a distinguished literary critic (John Bayley); our meetings were friendly, and surely no less or more argumentative than those of other years. But the absurdity of the process was soon apparent: it is almost impossible to persuade someone else of the quality or poverty of a selected novel (a useful lesson in the limits of literary criticism). In practice, judge A blathers on about his favourite novel for five minutes, and then judge B blathers on about her favourite novel for five minutes, and nothing changes: no one switches sides. That is when the horse-trading begins. I remember that one of the judges phoned me and said, in effect: ‘I know that you especially like novel X, and you know that I especially like novel Y. It would be good if both those books got on to the shortlist, yes? So if you vote for my novel, I’ll vote for yours, OK?’

“That is how our shortlist was patched together, and it is how our winner was chosen. It is how every shortlist is chosen, whether the premises are as explicit or not. I liked the winning book a great deal (James Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late) – it was one of my choices – and would have been happy with either that book or Alan Hollinghurst’s The Folding Star. But I intensely disliked the way we reached that verdict, and felt that the arbitrary, utterly political process discredited the whole project.

“Since then, prizes have become a form of reviewing: it is prize-lists that select what people read, prize-lists that make literary careers. Bookshops order novels based on the prizes they have won or been shortlisted for. Nowadays, a whole month before the shortlist is announced, scores of novelists are effectively told that their books have not been the “big books” of the year, because they are not to be found on the longlist. Soon, no doubt, we will have the long-longlist, and the long-long longlist. Some wonderful books win the Booker, of course, just as the flypaper occasionally catches some really large flies. But it means – or should mean – nothing in literary terms.”

Read more at The Guardian.

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